LNY 2021 SPOTLIGHT: Sir Leslie Joseph Hooker



LJ Hooker (1903-1976)


Sir Leslie Joseph Hooker, born Leslie Joseph Tingyou, is one of the most ubiquitous and recognisable names in the Australian real estate scene. He was born in Canterbury, Sydney to Chinese parents. His mother, Nellie, passed away when he was eight years old, leaving Leslie and his father to live with their extended family. He began working for several shipping companies at age 13. At 22 years of age, Leslie changed his surname from his father’s, Hookin, to the Anglo sounding, Hooker. This was to avoid the stigma attached to Chinese names during the early years of the White Australia policy, and facilitate his entrance into the property business. LJ's Chinese heritage remained a secret until some years after his passing.


By the 1930s, Hooker had bought several large blocks of land in what is now Western Sydney, as well as Maroubra, where he had set up the office in 1928 which was to become the mainstay of the LJ Hooker empire. By the 1950s and 60s, what had initially been a slowly expanding business emerged as the largest property agency and management company in Australia, with interests overseas as well. One of Hooker’s major innovations was to introduce the possibility to purchase equity in a real estate trust, rather than requiring buyers to purchase homes outright. This made entrance into real estate markets more accessible for those lacking the capital to buy property outright. Another novelty introduced to Australia by Hooker was the real estate agency franchise model, which remains popular today.


In addition to his businesses, Hooker was a keen philanthropist, donating money to and directing the Royal New South Wales Institute for Deaf and Blind Children. Additionally, he was involved in fundraising for various Olympic committees and the Salvation Army. The LJ Hooker brand and business continues to be run by the family today, with Leslie’s grandson Janusz now firmly in command.


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